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Marker May Predict Risk of Psychosis

Historically, health professionals have lamented their inability to identify individuals at risk for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

New research suggests a measure of retina function may serve as a method to predict individuals at high risk for the conditions.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder affect tens of millions of millions of individuals around the world with the disorders typically beginning during the early 20s.

Most cases have a chronic or recurring course. Neither disorder has an objective biological marker than can be used to make diagnoses or to guide treatment.

Findings in Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier suggest that electroretinography (ERG), a specialized measure of retinal function might be a useful biomarker of risk for these disorders.

Additionally, retinal deficits may contribute to the perceptual problems associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Over the past several years, research has suggested that cognitive impairments in schizophrenia might be linked to early stages of visual perception. This work is now drawing attention to the function of the retina, the component of the eye that detects light. Within the retina, rods are light sensors that respond to black and white, but not to color.

Rods are particularly important for maintaining vision under conditions of low light and for detecting stimuli at the periphery of vision. Cones are light sensors that detect color and perceive stimuli at the center of vision.

Using ERG, Canadian researchers Marc H├ębert, Michel Maziade and their colleagues observed that the ability of light to activate rods was significantly reduced in currently healthy individuals who descended from multigenerational families that had members diagnosed with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In contrast, the response of their cones to light was normal.

“We take for granted that other people experience the world in the same way that we do. It is important to appreciate that for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as for colorblindness or selective hearing loss, people who appear to perceive the world normally may actually have subtle but important problems with perception, which may contribute to other adaptive impairments,” comments Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry.

Scientists are still searching for a valid biomarker for the heritable risk for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Although the current data are interesting, extensive testing is still needed before the utility of this measure as a risk biomarker can be evaluated.

Source: Elsevier

Marker May Predict Risk of Psychosis

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Marker May Predict Risk of Psychosis. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 5 Feb 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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